Homemade Gesso





Hello fellow artists!

Loving art and being on a limited income is not a good match; nevertheless, with a little creativity and willingness to make homemade items in lieu of expensive material, it is possible to continue creating beautiful art and save money! This set of instructables will assist the user to create their own gesso- a binder mixed with chalky substance- used for preparing surfaces, such as paper, to be painted onto with oil paint when buying canvas is not possible. Because of the oil based paint, using regular unprimed paper will disintegrate in a matter of months, but the gesso act as a barrier, protecting the paper.

Health Warning:

Talcum is a government approved item in beauty supplies. Questionability has arisen concerning safety of talcum powder in women who have developed ovarian cancer from using them; however, studies are inconclusive, but DO err on the side of safety. Use filter mask, and gloves when handling talcum powder. My steps provided reduces the amount of exposure to airborne talcum while assembling the gesso but its success depends on your container selected, it must be airtight which not only reduces leakage but also eliminates drying of the gesso.

Price comparison:

Items with the exception of glue, paint, and baby powder (totaling $2.50) are reusable. A store bought gesso lowest price starts at $9.97, and canvas at $4.50. Additionally, you can use a Michael’s or Hobby Lobby half price coupon to buy the 140 lbs watercolor pad with 30 sheets for 4 dollars- each sheet at .13 cents. Homemade and store bought gesso both are 16 ounces. You can expect to save $11.84 with the homemade version gesso and surface!

Have FUN!

Have fun! Price constraints should not be a major factor when buying supplies to create art, especially if one wants to practice before using the expensive stuff. Let’s get started! Supply list and steps to follow.

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Step 1: Supply List

(all are generic brands bought from Dollar Tree, exception of watercolor and Bristol paper)

* 4 ounces plain white glue (the container will also serve as your measuring cup!)

* 2 ounces Acrylic paint matte (any color you desire, white is used here)

* 24 ounces baby powder (this is important: make sure it is talcum based, look on the back and read its ingredients)

* 8 ounces of water

* Watercolor 140lbs paper ~or~ 100 lbs drawing paper- Bristol-

* Screw top or airtight container: at least 2 cups, glass or plastic- I prefer plastic no danger of breaking glass and sharp shards.

* Goggle

* Latex gloves

* Masking tape

* Stirrer: popsicle stick or paint knife

* Brush: bigger size will be faster

Step 2: Pour Glue Into Your Selected Airtight Container.

Empty entire glue into container

Step 3: Add Water

Pour 4 ounces water into glue bottle screw lid back on and shake.

Step 4: Empty Glue

Empty watery glue bottle into container, do step 3 one more time.

Step 5: Stir Paint, Glue, and Water

Stir to blend glue, paint, and water.

Step 6: Add Baby Powder

Put on filter mask and gloves then empty entire 24 ounces of baby powder- this will get messy- head outside!

Step 7: Shake to Mix

Secure lid and shake, this step will reduce airborne talcum, do not stir as it will send off particles into the air.

Step 8: Check Consistency

We are aiming for ease to brush the gesso onto paper, not too thick or watery.

Step 9: Tape Paper to Surface

Secure paper with masking tape around perimeter, this will reduce warping as the paper takes on wet gesso.

Step 10: Paint Paper

Paint gesso onto surface in alternating directions: vertical & horizontal, I recommend 2 layers.

Step 11: Wash Brush

Wash brush to remove glue and prolong life of brush.

Step 12: Remove Tape

Remove masking tape slowly after 5 hours of drying time- varies depending on your humid or dry climate.

Step 13: Paint!

Left: homemade gesso, right store bought $10 gesso. Caution, paper will warp. Surface is toothy, sanding is optional if smoothness is desired. Stir to redistribute gesso as it will settle and separate in hours.

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11 Discussions


Question 15 days ago on Step 8

What can i do if it's too thin/runny?


Question 4 weeks ago

Is it neccessary to add acrylic paint to prapare the gesso?
Thanks :)


5 weeks ago

Can I use school glue? Elmers/PVA glue


2 years ago

Can whiting be used of the talcum? Have a whole sack of it.

1 reply

Reply 2 months ago

Yes. Its preferred in most recipes..it is what zgesso is actually made of.


9 months ago

I make it the same way but with Plaster of Paris


Question 1 year ago on Step 8

I just ended up with a solid glob. I added a half cup of water but it will not blend . The liquid sits on the surface and when I try to paint it is more like a thick glob that quickly separates as soon as it touches the paper. What is wrong?

2 answers

Answer 1 year ago

Yes I did. After letting it sit for a week it mixes together better, but it still separates as soon as it touches the paper. If I only dip the tip of the brush into the liquid, it paints, sort of; The paper gets really wet and ripples almost beyond use.when it drys. Probably because of the extra water I added.


3 years ago

Awesome! I've never made my own before. :)